Christmas is a time for visiting family, sharing gifts with loved ones and sparing a thought for those less fortunate than you. As the festive season rapidly approaches, NSW’s roads will fill up with holiday drivers looking to shop for last-minute gifts and travel across the state or country to spend time with relatives.
The bad news is that car accident injuries and deaths over Xmas and New Year are likely to rise. Getting behind the wheel of your vehicle always poses risks, but statistics show the country’s roads are particularly hazardous at this time of year.
Transport for NSW revealed there were 21,709 injuries in the state for the 12-month period ending December 31 2013. According to the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF), there are approximately 600 serious injuries per week due to road accidents in Australia.
Dr Peter Aitken, EMF chair and emergency specialist, said: “This would be higher during school holidays and at Christmas time with more cars on the roads. Emergency department doctors see it every year.”
Let’s examine some of the most common causes of accidents during the holiday season, as well as the injuries compensation to which you may be entitled.
Christmas crash factors
There are many reasons why driving during the Christmas and new year period could be more dangerous. For example, alcohol is a frequently cited cause of Xmas collisions, as an increase of booze-fuelled festive parties and family gatherings leads to a rise in drink driving.
Research from NRMA Insurance showed car park crashes also appear to be more common during December. In 2010, the organisation found these incidents rose 20 per cent above the annual average in the pervious year. NRMA Car Insurance spokesperson Emily Gatt said people may get caught up in the Christmas frenzy and experience unnecessary accidents.
“We recommend drivers obey the parking rules, take it easy when circling the car park for a space and be alert for other drivers,” she explained. “Typical parking collisions involved reversing into other cars, runaway shopping trolleys and scrapes with pylons and poles.”
Tiredness is also a common cause of car accidents, and the Thoracic & Sleep Group Queensland found that 30 per cent of fatigue-related collisions occur during school and public holiday periods. According to the organisation, drivers should be particularly careful when on the roads at Christmas.
Fatigue commonly leads to accidents at Christmas.
Car accident compensation during Xmas
NSW road users who are injured in vehicle-related incidents may be protected under the state’s Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999. This includes drivers, passengers and pedestrians who sustain injuries in accidents involving cars, trucks, motorbikes and bicycles.
The legislation is fairly wide reaching, meaning you can receive payouts across a range of situations. For example, you may be eligible if no one was to blame for the accident or the person at fault cannot be found. You could also be successful if you’re partly to blame for the collision or the driver of the vehicle in which you were travelling was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Tragically, some accidents result in fatalities. Statistics from the NSW Police Force showed five people died in crashes spanning the weekend of December 5 and 6 alone. The organisation revealed 325 people have passed away as a result of collisions in the state this year.
If you are the close relative of someone who has died in a motor accident for which someone else was partly or wholly to blame, you could be entitled to compensation. Successful claims can cover funeral costs, medical expenses and loss of financial support from the relative. In some cases, you may still receive compensation even if your loved one was partly at fault.
Making a claim
Car accidents could ruin your Christmas, but it’s important you consult with experienced compensation lawyers as quickly as possible following the incident. This is because there are time limits enforced when making claims.
For example, you must report to the police within 28 days of the accident occurring if officers did not originally attend the scene. The police will typically investigate at the time of the crash if someone is hurt, but your injuries may not fully manifest for a few hours or days after the event.
Furthermore, the law requires you to make a car accident compensation claim within six months of the relevant date. This is the day of the incident for injury claims or the day of a loved one’s death for fatal collisions.